Joseph Creek


Joseph Creek, a tributary of the Grand Ronde River, is located in northeast Oregon on the northern boundary of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest 40 miles from Enterprise, Oregon. One of the most remote and least accessible rivers in the contiguous 48 states, the river is seldom visited. In fact, most pictures of Joseph Creek don’t even show the creek but rather the top of the canyon through which it flows.

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Designated Reach

October 28, 1988. From Joseph Creek Ranch, one mile downstream from Cougar Creek, to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest boundary.

Outstandingly Remarkable Values


Joseph Creek is recognized as an important wild steelhead and wild rainbow trout fishery. It is a significant tributary to the Grand Ronde River, and hence, Snake River system.


The canyon contains textbook-perfect examples of northeast Oregon geology, typified by Columbia River basalt canyons exposed by downcutting of rivers. The 2,000-foot-deep canyon is virtually unmodified, and its spectacular details, such as steep side slopes, basalt layers, and dikes, can be easily viewed from the canyon rim. The wide canyon rim, steep side slopes, dikes, and basalt layers are exposed features from the erosional activity of the creek.


The canyon country of Joseph Creek plays a vital role in Nez Perce tribal history. Most important is the proximity of Joseph Canyon to the gathering place for Chief Joseph and his band at the mouth of Joseph Creek.

The potential for inclusion of Joseph Canyon viewpoint into the Nez Pierce National Historical Park highlights the importance of this site. The park status would bestow a national focus when the opportunity to interpret an interesting part of Nez Pierce history.


The range of recreation opportunities in and along Joseph Creek, including the surrounding Joseph Canyon, is somewhat limited due to the physical characteristics of the area. However, what is lacking here in quantity, the visitor will find in quality of the recreation experience being pursued. Hiking, horsepacking, bird watching, wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting, and photography can be enjoyed in a solitary manner in a spectacular setting.


The spectacular natural setting, ruggedness, inaccessibility, and steep topography of Joseph Creek and the surrounding environs of Joseph Canyon creates a lasting impression on those who view it. Depending on the season that it is visited, one may be enticed to explore it further or may leave with the feeling that it is an inhospitable place for humans.


While some of the wildlife populations which exist in Joseph Canyon may be common regionally, the sheer diversity of them and the significance of the federally listed species elevates their importance. More common wildlife includes deer, elk, black bear, river otter, and cougar. The habitat present for the reintroduction of an endangered species (peregrine falcon) is notable, as is the common sightings of bald eagles during the winter months. The bighorn sheep population is also important.

Managing Partners And Contacts


Wild — 8.6 miles; Total — 8.6 miles.
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